UF Law alumnus and ABA Tax Section chair prepares ground for tax reform
BY MATT WALKER
When President Barack Obama announced tax reform as a major priority in his State of the Union Address in January, it meant more to Charles Egerton (JD 69) than to most of us.
You see, in addition to serving fulltime as a practicing tax and corporate law attorney in Orlando, Egerton is chairman of the American Bar Association’s Section on Taxation. With 24,000 members, it’s the largest professional tax attorney group in the nation.
“It’s almost a second job,” said Egerton, a founding shareholder of Dean, Mead, Egerton, Bloodworth, Capouano & Bozarth, P.A. in Orlando. “When all is said and done, I will have probably at least 1,000 hours in this year — during my term — and it’s something I’ve really enjoyed.”
The prospects for tax reform received a significant boost from the report issued in December by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which called for comprehensive tax reform as one of the central components of a plan to restore fiscal responsibility to the government. One month later, the national taxpayer advocate issued her annual report to Congress in which she listed the need for comprehensive tax reform as the No. 1 priority for the tax system this year. In addition, both the House Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee have begun hearings on tax reform.
Because of the potential for wide-ranging federal tax reform, Egerton said he has asked each of the ABA Tax Section’s substantive committees — there are more than 30 — to look at their areas of responsibility in the internal revenue code and prepare a paper on what is working and what isn’t. The committees will examine how their areas of tax law could be reshaped to make the laws simpler, fairer and easier to administer.
“This is probably the largest project the tax section has undertaken in a good 20 or 30 years,” he said.
Egerton said the ABA Tax Section is “saying if you’re going to undertake tax reform, we’re going to give you some nuts-and-bolts-type recommendations on how to improve the code, make it more workable.”
Once the papers are in, they will be submitted to the House Ways and Means Committee, the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Senate Finance Committee.
“The Finance Committee is just beginning the long process of tax reform, and Chairman (Max) Baucus places great value on input from experts and stakeholders, including the ABA,” said a Finance Committee aide. “Analysis of tax reform from the ABA and other well-respected groups will certainly be taken into consideration as the process moves forward.”
Michael Friel, UF Law professor, associate dean and director of the Graduate Tax Program, along with UF Law Professor and Alumni Research Scholar Dennis Calfee recently delivered a tax policy presentation with Egerton.
“Charlie is the ideal person to be leading the ABA Tax Section at a time when the possibility of fundamental tax reform is in the air,” Friel said.
Friel said that since the ABA Tax Section is the leading professional tax organization in the country, its reports and recommendations will be the result of careful analysis and will receive serious attention as the tax reform debate moves ahead.
“Charlie — the tax lawyer’s tax lawyer — is so highly regarded for his fairness, legal expertise and leadership skills that the Tax Section’s ambitious agenda could not be in better hands,” Calfee said.
Egerton said that while the ABA Tax Section does not enter into the political debate, it will weigh in on the technical aspects of the code.
He said the rules have become so cumbersome because policymakers have stacked one change on top of another for the past 30 years. “That’s something hopefully we can really make a contribution on and have an impact on the tax system.”
With such a big undertaking, it begs the question of whether the task will be completed by the time Egerton’s term ends in July.
“It’s supposed to be; they probably won’t let me leave without finishing it,” Egerton said with a laugh.
Despite his busy schedule of tax reform and tax law practice, Charles Egerton maintains his connection to the University of Florida Levin College of Law. Egerton’s firm, Dean, Mead, Egerton, Bloodworth, Capouano & Bozarth, P.A. in Orlando, co-sponsored last year’s holiday party at Dean Robert Jerry’s house in Gainesville and sponsors a scholarship to the UF Law Graduate Tax Program.